Intended for healthcare professionals


Ian Adamson: paediatrician who became mayor of Belfast and persuaded Ian Paisley to talk to Sinn Féin

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 12 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1136
  1. Rebecca Wallersteiner
  1. London, UK
  1. wallersteiner{at}
Credit: Dalaradia Group

Born in Conlig, County Down, Samuel Ian Gamble Adamson grew up in a modest but bookish family. His father, John, who ran the village store and enjoyed reading, was from Bolton in Lancashire and his mother was from East Ayrshire. He had two sisters, who survive him. The studious young Adamson was educated at Bangor Grammar School, where he read assiduously and developed an interest in history and culture, as well as in science. The teachers tried to make him lose his working class accent.

After the news of his death, Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, paid tribute to Adamson, describing him as a “friend,” a “respected scholar,” and a “supporter of countless organisations that served to celebrate and protect our common heritage.”

A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, Adamson worked as a consultant paediatrician for many years and was a specialist in community child health and in immunisation against tropical diseases. He spoke 10 languages, including Ulster Scots, Lakota Sioux, Russian, Swahili, Dutch, and Irish; had an interest in anthropology; and loved meeting people from different countries and cultures. He liked to show friends the precious pipe of peace presented to him by Sioux elders, when he was accepted as a member of the …

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